Plant pots
Thrive and Trellis have committed to working together to create a professional body for Social & Therapeutic Horticulture (STH). To further this aim, a STH forum has been established, comprising mainly of experienced STH practitioners, to help us navigate a way forward to achieving this.

Thrive and Trellis arranged an inaugural meeting for STH forum members on 21st November. Representing Thrive at the meeting were Thrive's CEO Kathryn Rossiter and Thrive's Training, Education & Consultancy Manager, Damien Newman. In the meeting members discussed potential benefits of a professional body – both for the sector in general and individual practitioners – as well as possible challenges.

Below is a summary of key findings from the meeting.

Potential benefits of a professional body for the sector in general:

  • Increased awareness and understanding of STH and how it differentiates from gardening in general
  • Greater confidence in STH qualifications and recognition for the profession itself
  • Making STH more accessible
  • Attracting more people and funding into STH
  • Encouraging more research
  • Enabling other agencies and organisations to collaborate on projects; finding local practitioners and programmes; and sharing green space availability
  • Building wider networks.

Benefits for STH practitioners specifically could include:

  • Professional STH oversight including evidence-based practice and a clear professional value base
  • Formal definition of roles with associated skills, experience, knowledge levels and qualifications
  • Professional indemnity insurance protection for practitioners
  • Setting and overseeing standards
  • CPD (continuous professional development)
  • Opportunities for supervision, networking, support and advice
  • Establishing a directory of STH programmes and practitioners

Potential challenges could be:

  • Cost of registration, CPD and training (especially for STH volunteers)
  • How to recognise the different qualifications and/or experience levels of current practitioners for registration and how to manage those who don’t hold a qualification
  • How to represent the diversity of STH organisations and make the professional body accessible to smaller ones
  • How to monitor standards (e.g., Ofsted-type inspections), instil safeguarding practices and be able to shut down unsafe projects or suspend practitioners who have lapsed CPD or had complaints raised against them
  • Establishing the resources to do all of the above

Other ideas raised included:

  • Creating a Code of Conduct that provides basic standards of care – for example, not all organisations in green social prescribing and STH have appropriate standards and safeguarding in place to protect clients and service users
  • Identifying who and which organisations should be involved in setting up a professional body
  • Speaking with other key stakeholders such as clients, employers and people who pay for us to do our work about what they would expect membership of this professional body to mean
Jan with clients 1 of 1

In terms of next steps, members agreed the following actions:

  • Make a start by defining practitioner roles and skills/knowledge levels
  • Evaluate different levels of membership e.g., student, associate, etc. as well as the value of a points-based system that recognises different qualifications and years of experience
  • Look at how other emerging professional bodies have been set up and any key learnings from these
  • Look at similar bodies overseas such as the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) in the US as well as other training providers such as the Forest Schools

All in all, the STH forum meeting was a very productive start to our goal of creating a STH professional body and we will keep you updated on progress and key milestones reached throughout 2023

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